Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… These are some of the new tools politicians use to communicate with voters. We have come a long way from front porch speeches and rallies.
Most people think social media benefits the political process, and although there is much evidence to that effect, it’s not all good news.
Social media promote discussion, reaches new audiences and is cheaper.
Likes, Retweets, shares… social media engagement is becoming the new life blood of political viability. Politicians now live in fear of “How can people support my campaign if I only have 500 likes?” Engagement also comes with what politicians like to avoid: dissent. Now public office holders can immediately know how much people disagree with what they are saying.
Reaching a younger demographic is now more likely through social media. Now we may be able to accomplish what democracy needs: More young people at the polls than at “Rock the Vote” concerts.
Although social media is a long way from being more important than TV in election budgets, it will increasingly take center stage as a way to communicate with voters. This will level the playing field for candidates who can’t fundraise as effectively, but have important things to say. This, of course, until Zuckerberg breaks his promise to keep Facebook free!
Poorly researched comments, biased responses and over simplified conversations can be a detriment to the political process.
Social media allows anyone to post whatever they want, this doesn’t mean they should. We are not required to back up our arguments, engage in balanced debates or elaborate enough to clearly explain our point to the audience in the social media world. To be fair this happened in traditional media already, but the character limit on Twitter doesn’t help!
Social media will continue to become a stronger part of the political process over time. The political process is already quite a mess. Social media will make things worse if not used responsibly.
Any thoughts? Please comment below.